Up the West Coast and Across Canada
We soon pass Hell's Gate. This location is the narrowest part of the river. The river flows through a 110ft wide opening between rock walls, almost like a dam with the center missing.
Soon our section is called to lunch. Today Lunch starts out with Soup or Shrimp Salad followed by your choice of Whole Roasted Alberta Strip Loin, whole Roasted Loin of Pork, Baked Filet of Trout, Portabello Mushroom, or Fusilli Pasta. Like I said no hunger on this train. While we are at lunch we pause at Boston Bar, Which is the end of the division for an operation crew change.
Soon, at Cisco, we again change sides of the river with the CN. After lunch I again try the observation platform but find it too cool for my Florida Blood.
One interesting thing for people with scanners is that the trains are on the same frequency, 161.415, for the whole length of Canada. The dispatcher is on three different frequencies, depending on location, making it easy to follow all transmissions.
At Lytton we leave the Fraser and began to follow the Thompson River. Where the Fraser has been muddy the Thompson is clear. We pass an area of rock sheds and slide detection fences, which the attendant refers to as Avalanche Alley. Next is a deep gorge, through which the Thompson flows, called Jaws of Death Gorge and Murray Creek Falls before arriving at the site of driving of the last spike on the Canadian Northern Railway. This site is marked with a marker.
We soon pass Basque, the only place where both the CPR and CN are on the same side of the river. Here we change back to the CN tracks for the rest of the trip into Kamloops.
Here the Attendant gives us a briefing on the bus and hotel arrangements, for this evening and tomorrow morning in Kamloops. In Kamloops we have the option of attending the "Two River Junction Dinner and Musical Review" or having dinner in our hotel. We have had an early start for the two previous mornings, and with another one scheduled for tomorrow, we opt for dinner at the hotel.
We pass Black Canyon Tunnel, Site of a tunnel collapse and are soon at Savona where the Thompson widens to form Kamloops Lake. We follow the north shore of this beautiful lake almost into Kamloops.
Kamloops is the point where the CN and CPR split for a different route over the Rockies. The CPR going almost straight West over Kicking Horse Pass and through Lake Louise and Banff. The CN goes over Yellowhead Pass and into Jasper. We have opted for the Jasper route, because that is the route of the Canadian, which we will catch in Jasper.
We pull past the "Y", which is the junction of the two railroads, and into the Kamloops station, arriving at about 5pm. Our buses are waiting to take us to the various hotels where we find our baggage in our rooms. We walk around town for a little while then eat dinner and turn in for the night.
The next morning the buses were at the hotels at 7am to take us to the station for our scheduled 8am departure. We leave our baggage in the rooms and board the bus. When we get to the station we find a much shorter train. We only have one engine today. The baggage car is still with our section.
The section going to Banff has already departed. As we depart the station and pull past the "Y" we see, on the right, a rail yard which is full of Rocky Mountaineer equipment. This equipment is used in the middle of the summer when there are as many as 8 trains a day on the road.
This mornings breakfast menu is the same as yesterday. Today our section gets to eat first and when we get back are served rolls and coffee or juice. All during the day drinks, soft and hard, are available at no cost.
This morning we are again following the Thompson River. Today we are running on CN track and there is traffic in both directions. We pass through McLure, Barriere, Little Fort, and Boulder. We take the siding several times for meets with freights. I spend some time on the observation platform. This morning the Jasper Red Leaf coaches are on the front and our dome car is on the rear. I take some pictures and meet some other railfans. I have put on all of the winter clothes I have with me but it is to cold to be conformable for long.
We reach the end of the division at Blue River, which is one store. We do not change crews here. We soon reach Pyramid Falls. They are still frozen. We are soon in sight of the Premier Range, which is made up of 11 peaks named for Canada's early Prime Ministers. The attendant tells us to look for Mt. Robertson, which is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. He says that it is usually covered in clouds and most of the time is not seen. At Albreda we leave the Thompson River.
About this time our section is called to lunch. Our selections today are Soup or salad, and British Columbia Salmon, Roasted Breast of Chicken, Grilled Lamb Chops, Vegetarian Strudel, and Penne Pasta. I chose the Lamb Chop.
After lunch we take several sidings to let freight traffic by. At about the 50 mile mark, on this division we come around a curve and Mt. Robson is right in front of us, with very few clouds. The attendants are excited and all gather in the dome. They say that they have never seen it this clear. Shortly we pass through a 1700 foot tunnel and cross the Fraser River which has rejoined our route from the north. We pass Moose Lake, which is listed, in the guide, as a clear lake, where you can see the bottom. Today it is frozen over and covered with snow.
Starting 25 miles from Jasper we pass Yellowhead Lake. It is a much larger lake and also frozen with fresh snowmobile tracks on it. Also in this area we cross Yellowhead pass, at 3718 feet, and start to descend into Jasper. We enter Jasper National Park, and about 5pm stop at Jasper.
Jasper is a town of about 4300 residents and 2 million visitors each year. This time of year there are a large number of accommodations available. We board the bus to our motel and find our baggage waiting for us. This is the end of the Rocky Mountaineer arranged portion of our trip.
At dinner this evening we look across the road and see a heard of elk grazing between the road and the rail yard. After dinner Roy picks up a rental car. He and Ann are going to Lake Louise, Banff, and Calgary before flying back to Florida.
The next morning we do some sightseeing around Jasper before Roy takes to the station for our scheduled 12:25pm departure.Continued in next section